Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Case for "Sanctuary"

[Edited from an original blog of mine.]

So many abuses - by persons avowedly serving God's people ....

We - the anguished and horrified bystanders to daily reports which grow ever worse - stand in sharp contrast to a Vatican hierarchy which is tap-dancing as fast as it can, trying to spin the crisis as perpetrated or enabled by anyone but them, the pope nonsensically urging laity to have absolute faith in priests, pinning his hopes on a revival of obedience to fussy old men dressed in red satin, with long trains, and people bowing to them like to idols.

And let's  not forget the story going on within our own borders:  Seeking to question and arrest aliens, people whom the good book insists be offered hospitality.  Seeking to deny to persons who love another the right to marriage and family life.  Are we too lording it over some deemed lowly or rejects?

So what's gone missing?

Well, humility for one thing.  But let's think about care, compassion, concern for the least among us.  Let's consider the concept of sanctuary.  Not just as a place of refuge, but as a virtue, a call, a commitment.  Transcending belief or unbelief.  Threading its way through politics and religions and ethics and morality, it reminds me of a series of blogs I did on Erikson's stages of development.  Using these stages, sanctuary is necessary for a sense of basic trust.  Plus, sanctuary as a virtue is indicative of higher developmental stages, particularly Wisdom.  Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs, sanctuary (considered as physical safety and psychic security) is a basic need, essential for normal human life.  Thus, sanctuary must be provided for all people.

Therapy is about sanctuary.  Though I never noticed that till Bwakfat's brilliant insight (Part II) left me pondering.  While I could easily make my case based upon the Old Testament or the New Testament, mostly I'm going to confine myself to describing a social good, a common endeavor, a ground to stand on in order to ensure the psychological and physical well-being of human persons, from birth to death, in every culture as well as in the natural world.

Sanctuary is what parents and schools and hospitals and social services, indeed anyone in the caring professions, is really engaged in.  Sanctuary is a place or process - for extending compassion and providing refuge.  It's a virtue or an ideal to strive for.  Even to fight for.  Perhaps to die for.  It's that important!

Without sanctuary, safety and trust are impossible.  Indeed, I think they have no meaning.  Without ensuring sanctuary, civic or religious trust breaks down, predators of all types are given free rein, and the small and weak and frail and elderly become nothing more than pawns, easily sacrificed to the gods of power and greed and appetite - to the twisted impulses of some who have clawed their way to positions of authority.

Sanctuary simply cannot work unless it is for all.  Leave one person or group out and you thereby violate its basic principle:  For denying safety, security, care, compassion to anyone leaves us all vulnerable to be preyed upon - maybe not now, but at some future date.

And lest you think I'm advocating that criminals get off "scott free" - not at all.  Indeed, I'd prefer prison reform too.  What great prisons we could have, if sanctuary for the human person, even the most hardened and vicious criminal, were the guiding principle.

Sanctuary for all.  If some of us were to go around Galilee (or your city) - like Jesus or maybe like the Buddha -   appealing to people's better natures, seeking to heal society, I suppose wes could do no worse than cry out:  Sanctuary is at hand!  Already in your very midst.  Come, all of you who feel burdened.  Learn compassion, seek and share sanctuary.  And you will find rest for your souls - your yearning for inner peace. 

I'm appealing to this concept, because I think instinctively the entire world is troubled and horrified by what's been done and not done within the Roman Catholic Church.  I think "sanctuary" is an implicit yardstick we're all using - when we daily face the fact that this issue is not disappearing from the news and indeed is more like a snowball rolling downhill, gathering more and more snow - headed directly for the Vatican - its expensively-dressed men demanding obeisance and a status above the law - and for the sycophants and hypocrites in their entourage. 

As I've said previously, it's not that I'm full of unfocused rage and willy-nilly grabbed onto this issue - like  one of the rings they used to hold out on a merry-go-round.  No, this crisis landed in my lap - because I care.  And like so many in the whole world, catholic or not, I simply can't turn my back on the victims (past, present, and god-forbid future) of a perverted travesty claiming to be the divinely appointed heirs of a venerable spiritual tradition.  I can't turn away!  And until this whole putrid edifice is dismantled, I too am squarely on the cross - sharing the sufferings of victims and anyone they've branded untouchables - unable to get off!
We're all upset - wondering how to bring these clerical criminals to justice - people under the protection of a so-called state, who are trying to avoid the long arm of the law by providing "sanctuary" for their own - while abandoning victims and the rest of us to our suffering (as just collateral damage).
And I'm just counting all the ways.... 

Part II,  Betrayal:  The Concept of Sanctuary Perverted

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